Human immunodeficiency virus-positive women's perspectives on breastfeeding with antiretrovirals: A qualitative evidence synthesis

Kan Man Carmen Li, Kan Yan Chloe Li, Debra Bick, Yan Shing Chang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
50 Downloads (Pure)


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive women can breastfeed with minimal risk of mother-to-child transmission if taking antiretrovirals. Guidelines surrounding infant feeding for HIV-positive women have evolved several times over the last two decades. Our review aimed to explore perspectives of breastfeeding with antiretrovirals from HIV-positive women since the World Health Organization (2010) infant feeding and antiretroviral guidelines. HIV-positive pregnant and postnatal women from all countries/settings were eligible. HIV-positive women were either on an antiretroviral regimen at the time of the study, previously on an antiretroviral regimen, not initiated on a regimen yet, or enrolled in prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) care. Quality assessment of all included studies were conducted. Four databases (CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE and PsycINFO) were searched for studies conducted from January 2010 to October 2020. Nine papers were included in the review, of which two presented findings from the same study. Five analytical themes were developed via thematic synthesis: (1) awareness of breastfeeding with antiretrovirals, (2) turmoil of emotions, (3) coping mechanisms, (4) the intertwining of secret, stigma and support and (5) support needed. Support from family and health care professionals and coping approaches were important to overcome stigma and the emotional challenges of breastfeeding with antiretrovirals. Health care professionals should be familiar with the most updated national and local guidance surrounding infant feeding and antiretrovirals. Further research into interventions to encourage HIV-positive women to adhere and commit to lifelong antiretroviral treatment (Option B+) for breastfeeding is required.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13244
JournalMaternal & Child Nutrition
Issue number4
Early online date13 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • AIDS
  • antiretroviral prophylaxis
  • antiretroviral therapy
  • breastfeeding
  • HIV
  • qualitative evidence synthesis


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